Portrait of Lucy’s daughter bearing the same name, Lucy Flucker Knox Thatcher, via Wikipedia.

The Revolution divided families and communities based on loyalty to the crown. At the age of 14, Lucy Flucker Knox joined the ranks of traitors – abandoning her family’s loyalty to the British crown in favor of the new American nation. 

Born in 1756, Lucy’s father was Secretary of Massachusetts and loyal to the crown. Her upper-class family expected Lucy to marry well, ensuring the family’s continued wealth and remain loyal British citizens. Lucy was highly educated and an avid reader, forming her own mind very early in life.

At age 17, Lucy met 24-year-old Henry Knox, a member of the lower merchant class and first-generation American son of Ulster Scots (now called Scotch-Irish, who were Protestants that rejected the Church of England). Henry had more than class and religion against him. His father had died young, leaving Henry to abandon school and work as a merchant to support his family. Largely self-taught, Henry founded his own bookshop in Boston and served in local artillery groups before co-founding the Boston Grenadier Corps and joining the Sons of Liberty. 

In 1774, Lucy married Henry. Lucy’s parents disowned her and, as the Revolution came into full swing, her family fled for London. Lucy never saw them again. 

The next year, Lucy and Henry faced intense pressure to join the loyalists in Boston. British forces wanted Henry to join them, threatening to arrest him if he refused. Staunchly committed to the American cause, Lucy sewed Henry’s weapons into her coat before fleeing Boston with Henry. The couple went to a Continental Army encampment in Cambridge, where Henry enlisted. Separated by war, and pregnant with her first child, Lucy managed to survive the initial years of the war in Worcester, Massachusetts. 

In 1778, at age 22 with a young daughter in tow, Lucy joined her husband at Valley Forge. She met Martha Washington, and the two became well-known for their support of the Continental Army. When the army left Valley Forge, Lucy spent the remainder of the war with friends in New Jersey. 

Lucy’s life reveals the choices that young women faced as the Revolution dawned: stay loyal to their families or follow their hearts, both politically and romantically. As a generation that saw high levels of education for middle- and upper-class girls, many stories similar to Lucy likely exist in the historical record. However, her husband’s position and military accomplishments solidified Lucy as a heroine: an example of the courage and fortitude Revolutionary-era girls brought to the struggles of forming a new nation.

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